February 2, 2006 1:44 PM PST

Sun forecasts end to 'Frankenstein' computing

In the next few years, a "phase change" will take place as companies stop running their own customized computing infrastructure, Sun Microsystems Chief Technology Officer Greg Papadopoulos predicted Thursday.

Naturally, Sun believes it has the answer--buying processing power from the company's standardized computing grid. But in San Francisco at an annual Sun meeting with analysts, Papadopoulos laid out his reasoning for why he believes the trend is more than just a Sun Grid sales pitch.

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The basic reason is that innovations in software are beginning to arrive not in the form of a CD of digital bits that a customer installs but rather in the form of a service that a customer uses over the Internet, Papadopoulos said. "Every business plan I've seen at software start-ups is 'We want to be the Google of...' It means they're going to create one of these services."

Selling software as a service rather than as bits means swifter innovation, he added, because deploying improvements within a single service is faster than distributing it to innumerable customers who must then install and test it. "You eliminate a tremendous amount of time and complexity," he said.

The result: Information technology executives realize that designing and operating their own equipment costs more than paying a company that specializes in doing so, Papadopoulos said. And computing infrastructure will become a financial liability.

"In 2010, if you're a big custom IT shop with thousands of employees, that's going to look like as differentiating a value as showing how big your pension plan is today," Papadopoulos said.

Sun Chief Executive Scott McNealy disparaged companies that assemble computing systems out of a hodgepodge of components.

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"'Best of breed' is now code for Frankenstein. I've walked into more than a few data centers where I said, 'Whoa, where did you get that thing?'" McNealy said. "They've got body parts from every supplier you can imagine. There are big bolts sticking out everywhere and stitch marks."

Sun's goal is to sell the hardware and software that companies use to supply such services, and it's succeeded with some, such as eBay, which hosts auctions, and SalesForce.com, which hosts customer relationship software. But adoption of the idea so far hasn't been enough to stem Sun's market share losses or consistent profitability.

CONTINUED: Bumpy road ahead…
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The Revenge of the Network Computer!
Sun did this before, offering the Network Computer as a thin-client with the data, software, and everything else being offered as a service over the Internet (Network). All they have done now is offer some Google type services and tried to pass off the Network Computer as a Dotcom Business Plan.

I'd imagine Sun would "rent" or "lease" the Network Computers, most likely a low-end PC running some version of Unix and then VNC or something else to connect over the Internet or their own Network to the Servers in the Frankenstein project which provide the processing power, storage, software, and web applications as a service.

Quite frankly I could see Small Businesses doing this with Linux and Xen running on the servers and allowing virtual Linux, Darwin, Solaris, *BSD, etc systems and software and web applications as a service with available technology already out there and Open Source Software. All they would need is the capital to make their own high end Linux servers, and search for OSS solutions to doing the same thing Sun is doing. Imagine what companies will do once Red Hat Fedora Core 5 has Xen built into it? They could run their own servers and buy cheap $100 used PCs with network cards and install Linux on them and use VNC to connect to their Fedora Xen servers and save a bundle by not going with Sun or the big guns with this type of thing. Of course they would need to pay a Linux Administrator to keep it running, but it could be cheaper than paying Sun for the services.

Ironically this is yet another shot by Sun to try and take out Microsoft. The Network Computer didn't do it, getting Java on every OS did not do it, making a Java based OS did not do it, now they want something that can challenge the Windows Terminal Server software with a Dotcom Google-Like twist to it.

I think that Sun would do better if they spent some money on developing Linux or ReactOS to help those OSS projects compete with Microsoft Windows. Maybe help port Openstep to Linux and ReactOS? Maybe help make them better and more user friendly? Maybe merge Linux with OpenSolaris?
Posted by Orion Blastar (590 comments )
Reply Link Flag
VNC... Ugh
I haven't used VNC in a while. I quit using it
because it was a piece of junk. Maybe it's gotten
better but I believe that it's core ideas are
fundamentally flawed. Given even a modest amount
of network bandwidth, I'll take X11 to remotely
display applications. My guess is that Sun would
probably opt for a Sunray type of solution. I
really don't know much about Sunray technology
but I've been told it works well.

Regardless of the how the apps get displayed the
future of business computing probably will be
done on leased grid or services computers. It
makes sense as it will lower the cost for businesses. Application service providers make
a lot of sense.
Posted by X99 (37 comments )
Link Flag
You miss the point
You've missed the point of the story. Its not about vnc clients and servers but about grid oriented services which is primarily aimed at large companies, compute intensive science and academic research, multimedia (aka hollywood media) companies and a more general acceptance of this in the future. And Papadopoulos is not talking about offering this today but a direction in the future by many companies they've talked to. Service based offerings are on the rise and you can see the effect of it through adoption of web services in many startups using this for very innovative ideas not just the old example of a stock quote.
Posted by shreeg (26 comments )
Link Flag
Sun could change the world like this...
I am using a service that offers a free public online desktop it's really great and called <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.cosmopod.com," target="_newWindow">http://www.cosmopod.com,</a> it would be magic if Sun got involved with them to prove to the public that this is a reality today and also to create an awesome service not that it isn't already!
Posted by iqula (59 comments )
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